Not happy, but desperate, I did my yoga. I started out with sun salutations, about 30 minutes of Vinyasa yoga, and that’s just flow — just means you flow with every breath.
After a few weeks, I wanted more; I needed more. So I started doing half of the Ashtanga yoga primary series. Ashtanga yoga is a really beautiful form of yoga where you turn your whole body into a breathing machine, and you do that for about 90 minutes through a series of poses, and at the end, you are in bliss for the rest of the day.
Nobody, not even the taxi drivers in Warsaw, can make you angry.
And at that point, I had to admit the Ukrainian was right. And that was when I got inspired because not only did my knee heal, but all these other changes started happening.
I was never a morning person, but all of a sudden, I’m waking up at the crack of noon to do my yoga. My asthma, that I’d struggled with all my life, completely disappeared. My stomach pain — gone. I had chronic stomach pain, non-stop; I was always walking around like this. And most baffling of all, I remembered where I put my keys.
So I started studying everything I could about yoga, and I wanted to know more, which led me to all the deeper things behind yoga. I needed more than just the physical practice. So, we call the positions in yoga asanas.
And I had to go beyond the asanas. Before, you see, I used to think yoga was just these physical poses that you’d get in and hold your breath in for a while. And then I realized, wow, the rest of yoga has all these subtle breathing practices.
And the only reason why we do the physical yoga is in order to heal our bodies first because we can’t sit in meditation and bathe in the bliss of life if all we’re thinking about is how bad our back is killing us.
I started discovering all these practices, and it was so exciting. I was like a kid in a candy store, just blown away by the simplicity.
Then you come to the Sanskrit language, and it’s so beautiful too; it’s so logical and so powerful. Let’s take the word pranayama for example. It describes a lot of different breathing practices, and I feel it really sums up the essence of yoga and why we do this.
So let’s dissect it. First you have prana, which means the life force. Literally, it’s in the air we breathe; it’s all around us.
And then we have ayama, which is lengthening. So literally, “life lengthening through breathing.” This ancient yoga practice, it’s also really proven in science if you look at what breathing does.
When you slow your respiratory rate, it kicks in the parasympathetic nervous system, right? Lowering your blood pressure, calming your body down, relieving stress.
Breathing fast, on the other hand, kicks in your fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous reaction. It makes your heart race, mind race out of control.
Want to live a long life? Here’s a key: it’s a chart of the average breaths per minute and then how long they live.
Mouse: breathing average of 130 breaths — breathe very, very fast — and they only live to be one to three years old.
Next, we have the dog: dog breathes about 30 breaths on average per minute; they live 10 to 20 years old.
Let’s jump to the chimpanzee: they breathe about 14 breaths per minute, little better, and they live 40 years.
The horse: they breathe about 12 on average, while at rest, and they live to be 50 years; they can’t — I wouldn’t want to ride that one.
And the human, let’s just average it at nine. Well, a healthy human, anywhere from 6 to 12. An unhealthy human, maybe 12 to 24 breaths per minute, and that unhealthy human will probably live less long.
So, now we have the whale: whale breathes 6 breaths a minute, lives to be 100.
Obviously, there are exceptions, but the tendency is pretty clear. All right. So there you have it.
I shared this information, actually, with a colleague at work — he’s in his 60s — and he said, “Where were you when I was younger? You should have told me this then. Come on.”
And that is exactly what my wife and I thought: “Why isn’t this taught in every school from preschool until university.”
So my wife and I decided, “Hey, we’re not going to wait for school. We’re going to teach our baby from the moment of conception.”
Pregnant — we’re off to India, doing as much yoga, chanting and meditation as we possibly can. Then once our daughter was born, we held her on our chest, and we lay down and breathe deep as much as we could, super deep, because we wanted to force her to imitate us, and she would; she’d sync up her breath with ours after we’d done it long enough.
And if she started crying, well then, we’d breathe really loud and exaggerate our breath in her ear, and that calming sound would calm her down.
And so it would be something like this: (Breathing loudly in and out)
And that sound is the same sound you hear in Ashtanga yoga, very deep, loud sounds like this: (Breathing loudly in and out)
So the whole time you’re doing yoga for an hour-and-a-half, you are physically calming yourself down. It’s like taking tranquilizers, but yet you have the energy of coffee. Totally amazing.